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We have just returned from our trip around Costa Rica and think we like the North Lake area of Arenal for a place to set up a business and a life. There are many opportunities along the hyway for land purchase where a house and business could be located to service the tourist industry. We were told that a Marina is scheduled for the area in the next 6 months and that a lot of development is on the way between Neuevo Arenal and Tycoon Gift shop. We were told this by a real estate salesman who we are aware makes it his business to create a sense of urgency.

Does anyone have any first hand knowledge of the area, its potential as a tourist development, climate, opinions on the investment potential or any comment at all?

We are very worried that if we wait too long the investment opportunities could be over as we found them to be on the North Pacific coast. Propertry values seem quite reasonable here comparatively.

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I believe lake arenal, along with many areas, has great potential. I myself am from Canada, and miss my trips to the lakes, I hope one day to have something up near arenal as a vacation property. We also do have many members in the area, but I guess the volcano could be a deterrent for some....

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Does anyone have any first hand knowledge of the area, its potential as a tourist development, climate, opinions on the investment potential or any comment at all?

We are very worried that if we wait too long the investment opportunities could be over as we found them to be on the North Pacific coast. Propertry values seem quite reasonable here comparatively.

 

The climate is humid but not as hot as the beaches. Heavy rainfall. Arenal is already the top tourist attraction in Costa Rica mainly due to the volcano. In fact everything depends on that volcano I think. If it were to stop erupting, I would think that the tourist thing would disappear overnight. Same thing if there were a huge eruption as there was near Cartago 30-40 years ago which changed irrevocably the face of Costa Rica. Arenal, as such, would likely cease to exist as an attraction as the government would be forced to limit tourism.

 

Lake Arenal has itself never been a big attraction, though it certainly could be as it has a lot of potential.

 

In general, I would suggest you not even think of buying property here in any location until you have lived here for at least 6 months to a year. Not vacation... actually live here.

 

Over 40% of the people who move here leave this country. You have no idea if you will even like living here... many do not! Living here is not vacationing here.

 

About six months ago, there was a woman I met at the ARCR seminar who SWORE up and down she loved CR, was going to buy property that very week, KNEW she loved CR and its people and because she had lived overseas, KNEW FOR SURE that Costa Rica was IT and that she could and would adjust to living here! In fact, she became quite animated when I suggested she just wait a few months and see. She didn't want to. She was convinced her beautiful property in Samara would be gone and she could not buy another.

 

We kept in touch! That is we did until last week. Seems she and her husband sold their property and returned to Canada the week before.

 

As for investment opportunities being over? That is just silly. There are a ton of opportunities here in numerous locations... including those NW beaches. Real estate people love to try to fool newcomers into thinking that all the good property will soon be gone. Hogwash. PLEASE don't fall for that baloney. The fact that you wrote, "...the investment opportunities could be over as we found them to be on the North Pacific coast." tells me you did not spend anywhere near the time you should have because that is just incorrect. Certainly property values are higher there... especially beachfront property, but the beach is not the end-all for investment either in property or in business. IN fact, there are over 100 beaches in that area... many are not even marked! To thoroughly explore ALL the NW beaches would take at least 12-16 weeks and even then, it would be difficult to know anything in detail about each one.

 

And as for business? I know personally of at least 2-3 excellent business opportunities for investors in that NW area alone.

 

And finally... as for property values, I can just about guarantee that if you have not lived here for at least one full year, you will overpay no matter where you buy. Take your time! Travel the country. Learn. See if you really LIKE it here. Be patient... and you will find opportunity and value everywhere you look.

 

Just my opinions... TG

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Thanks very much for your considered reply. I am sure that over the years you have offered the same advice over and over again to CR wanna bee's like us.

 

We have only been to CR twice and are very wide eyed about the country, so I would like to know what about the country is not to like? I have read that over 40% of people that migrate to CR wind up leaving. Why is that?

 

We cannot retire for at least three years and I guess the fear is that if the property values continue to climb as fast as they have been on the NW beach area we would not be able to afford anything by then.

We were considering purchasing bare land in Arenal as a hedge against this. We could not afford to spend 6 months in CR until after we retire, at which time if we found that we did not belong in CR we could sell our property and go. That is why I am asking your opinion on the investment potential of the Arenal area.

 

Once again, thank you for your guidance. It is a scary thing to invest your life savings in a foreign country. Your being there makes it a lot easier.

I am signing up today!

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Thank you for your kind words... but PLEASE, Do NOT invest one cent in this country until you have lived here at least six months. Especially don't do this if it is your life savings.

 

Some comment:

 

We were considering purchasing bare land in Arenal as a hedge against this. We could not afford to spend 6 months in CR until after we retire, at which time if we found that we did not belong in CR we could sell our property and go.
Unless you have a really hot property, it can take years to sell it. What if the property values go down? What if they devalue the colone? What if you hate living there? What if there is NO market for your property? Get the point? In fact???????????? Why OWN at all? I covered this subject here.

 

I have read that over 40% of people that migrate to CR wind up leaving. Why is that?

 

Now I will say before I answer why I think people leave, that these are all my personal opinions. They are from things I have heard or heard about, personally experienced or just feel strongly about.

 

People visit CR and think it is beautiful. It is!

 

They stay in hotels, B&B's etc, spend money, eat out for most if not all meals, are waited on hand and foot, see new and gorgeous scenery, swim in the ocean and they think THAT is Costa Rica. It isn't.

 

It's a vacation. It is not reality.

 

Living anywhere (reality) is washing clothes, cleaning house, buying a car, shopping for groceries, going to church, raising a family, dealing with crime, buying clothes, going to the bank, paying bills, getting a driver's license, driving, buying or renting a home, dealing with the government on various issues, talking with your neighbor and learning to live within a culture, entertaining guests, sending your kids to school, watching TV, go to the doctor and 1,000 other things you do right now wherever you live. Right now, you do not even give it a thought. It's your life.

 

Every single thing above and all the OTHER 1,000 things are different here.

 

People visit CR for 1 week, 2 weeks, sometimes even a month or two. They may do this ten times over several years, and they are SURE they know what is is like to live here.

 

They do not.

 

The only way you tell if you like living an ex-pat life is to DO IT.

 

I love Costa Rica. I love the people and the culture. I love the weather and the beauty. I do not many other things. Long lines. Beauracracy. Disorganization. Wasting time. Lack of clear communications. But I deal with it.

 

Many cannot.

 

The US for instance is a results driven ecomomy. We want something, we get it. Today. Now.

 

Kiss THAT goodbye if you live here.

 

CR is process driven. Everything is a process employing a lot of people to do a little work. Everything WILL happen here. It will seldom if ever happen in YOUR time frame. This drives the type-A's absolutely bonkers. Those who are more laid back tend to adapt more easily.

 

People move here and think they can 'do without' their old friends, family, familiar routines, etc. Some can. Some can't and miss those things terribly. So they leave.

 

Some people come and think they can live here very cheaply. They CAN, but to do so often requires a life style change they are unwilling or unable to make. They want the infrastructure of shopping, hospitals, roads, etc, but find that living in the Central Valley where these things are located is too expensive.

 

People come and feel they can live here without learning the language. They can. But to adapt and live in another culture requires communications. That means the onus is on you to learn to communicate. In my opinion, communications is one of the key differences in having a home somewhere and living somewhere. What I am talking about here is respect. Respect for the people, the land, the culture.

 

You can come here, live in a neighborhood full of people from your country, never learn more than 20 words of Spanish, and you can survive. But, you will feel like an outsider and you WILL be the minority. Many people cannot deal with being in the minority but are unwilling to adapt to the new culture.

 

The latest wave of total lunacy (in MY opinion, not ARCR's) is this group of complete boneheads who are moving here because they hate George Bush and the current US policies.

 

They seem to think living here is different and will somehow make their lives better. It won't.

 

Sheer nonsense! Two of the last four Presidents of Costa Rica are in jail. The third won't return from Europe... and the fourth is probably gonna get caught doing something sooner or later.

 

Crime is increasing, corruption is everywhere, and folks think this is paradise.

 

Me? I love this place and will never go back. I have learned to put up with a lot of stuff I never would have accepted while living up north. But if you think all will be perfect here, think again. The culture shock can be terrific!

 

Wait... take your time... visit... rent for a while... keep your money secure... then when you KNOW you have found your paradise... go for it!

 

TG

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TG, I've really appreciated getting to know you in this forum, you can be counted on to ask the tough questions. The issues you raise in your post are those I have wondered myself...what happens after the novelty wears off and I'm stuck with everyday life? The things I am thinking about:

 

1) I am easily bored and need to be learning all of the time. How happy will I be without libraries and bookstores? How frustrated will I be that if I'm interested in a new sport, I can't afford to just go out and buy a bunch of gear and try it out?

 

2) Will I get frustrated with the rain and mud? Right now, I can always put on more clothes and walk the dogs, even in zero degree weather. Will I feel trapped by the nightly rains?

 

3) Will I regret leaving my aging parents? What happens when their health goes bad?

 

4) No matter how fluent I try to get, will I miss having good ol' American English conversation?

 

5) I love the nature and the beaches, but how much time and money will I really have to enjoy them? Perhaps I'll spend less time hiking and beaching than if I live here and vacation in CR.

 

I'm going to take it real...slow.

 

Jan

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Well I gotta clear up a couple of things...

 

 

...after the novelty wears off and I'm stuck with everyday life?

 

The novelty wears off the very first day you realize you are not going home in two weeks.

 

 

 

... I am easily bored and need to be learning all of the time.

 

Good heavens... your are in a new country surrounded by six other countries about as far away as the next State in the US... There are rainforest. mountains, the ocean... you don't think you can learn? lol

 

 

...without libraries and bookstores? HUH? There are a TON of bookstores here... nice ones... air conditioned... with coffee! Libraries too, but not as nice.

 

 

...How frustrated will I be that if I'm interested in a new sport, I can't afford to just go out and buy a bunch of gear and try it out?

 

Another big HUH??? LOL... Buy what you want here. If it's not available here, order it over the Internet. About the only sport you won't enjoy much is one that deals with SNOW.

 

 

...Will I get frustrated with the rain and mud? ... Will I feel trapped by the nightly rains?

 

HUH again???? Where on earth will you be living? The weather in Costa Rica is the best in the WORLD (source: National Geographic). San Jose sports 350 days per YEAR of sunshine ay least 7 hours per day. Even in the rainy season it is only for a few hours. What nightly rains? MAYBE (though I seriously doubt it) there are rains every night up on some mountain top... but I certainly never heard of such a thing.

 

... 4) No matter how fluent I try to get, will I miss having good ol' American English conversation?

 

Unless you decide to live in the boonies, all you WILL be speaking is English and this is especially so if you go to the tourist beaches.! Sadly, few North Americans actually jump into the Spanish thing and chose to live in areas that are only Spanish speaking... and instead choose to socialize with other English speakers. That is why so few here learn much more than survival Spanish. I know I didn't for a couple of years. I REALLY learned Spanish when I hooked up with a Tica who spoke no English, living in a home with my housekeeper who also spoke no English. I had no choice and NOW I am way past survival Spanish... but it was an ugly few months I'll tell ya while I was learning all this.

 

 

...Will I regret leaving my aging parents? What happens when their health goes bad?

 

Depends on whether you like your parents :) When their heath goes bad... you will have the same decision to make that ALL ex-pats face who have ANY parents, children, relatives or close friends living back home... and that is ONE of the reasons ex-pat living is not for everyone. My family and friends prefer to come here anyway (gee... let's see! Minneapolis and CHicago in the Winter... or Costa Rica!).

 

...Perhaps I'll spend less time hiking and beaching than if I live here and vacation in CR.

 

So this means you don't do those things now? Last time I checked.. both those activities were free :)

 

TG

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TG, such sage advice. It would be so helpful if all of your advice were available in one place...

 

Please hurry and get your stuff edited/spell checked/ proof read/ translated/ paginated/collated/stapled, anything you have to do to get it out to us uninformed and misinformed.

 

I understand that the demand for the next Harry Potter book is second only to the release of TicoGrande's "Everything you wanted to know that someone else asked". Please hurry... :P

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I am flattered... but the new web site actually is prettty much devoted to accurate information on huge number of topics pertaining to Costa Rica, and contains less of this type of commentary of this type. Stuff like this belongs in forums I think where I can respond to specific questions. One thing the new web site will not have is a forum as this one and others more than fill that need.

 

There is a nice section on culture shock that does offer some excellent suggestions and sort of touches on the stuff in this thread.

 

I added three more pages yesterday... and a new one; "Odds and Ends", goofy stuff about Costa Rica. I came up with 15 goofy things (Like MacDonald's delivers here)... stuff that is interesting and funny, but does not warrant it's own web page :)

 

I am actively soliciting THREE things:

 

First... send me by email or PM ANY goofy things you know about living here in Costa Rica... funny ... odd ... unique things!

 

Second: If you live here... and have for some time... at least > one year, I am soliciting articles on ANYTHING pertaining to Costa Rica that might be of general interest. Some fine writers have already contributed to this site... but I want as much perspective as I can get!

 

Third... and this is restricted to folks who are living here and have lived here for at least 12 months or have other extensive knowledge of CR... I need proof readers. Not just for spelling errors or grammar, but for acccuracy and typos. This site is HUGE and contains so much data that stuff I wrote 2 years ago may be getting stale and I am just too close to it. So if you have a masochistic thing... call me here in Costa Rica or email me with who you are and so on. I'll send you the URL so you can begin finding all my errors :)

 

TG

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We have just returned from our trip around Costa Rica and think we like the North Lake area of Arenal for a place to set up a business and a life. There are many opportunities along the hyway for land purchase where a house and business could be located to service the tourist industry. We were told that a Marina is scheduled for the area in the next 6 months and that a lot of development is on the way between Neuevo Arenal and Tycoon Gift shop. We were told this by a real estate salesman who we are aware makes it his business to create a sense of urgency.

Does anyone have any first hand knowledge of the area, its potential as a tourist development, climate, opinions on the investment potential or any comment at all?

We are very worried that if we wait too long the investment opportunities could be over as we found them to be on the North Pacific coast. Propertry values seem quite reasonable here comparatively.

 

I, personally would advise extreme caution! I don't understand why it is that people are ignoring the fact that Costa Rica is on the verge of going bankrupt. My biggest fear since coming here, is that something is going to screw it up!! I've never been so happy in my life! If a person reads La Nacion daily, it becomes apparent that Costa Rica is in dire financial straits; and the fact that the approval of the Cental American Free Trade Agreement (TLC) is nowhere on the horizon (in the Costa Rican legislature), means that the prudent person should commence arranging his financial affairs to obviate any coming crises! As soon as this agreement is approved by the U. S. Congress and Bush signs it into law, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras and the Dominican Republic will gain the TOTALLITY of the Costa Rican market share!! Couple this with the fact that if, President Pachecos Fiscal Reform package is enacted, it will totally strangle the Costa Rican economy!! I DO NOT WISH TO SEE Costa Rica FAIL!!

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Hello TG,

 

I just found the forum and a link led me to additional comments you had made concerning the pitfalls of "leaping before looking".

 

"4. Rents are dirt cheap, and you can rent STUNNING homes everywhere! Just take your time and learn about this country. You need to travel and see ALL of Costa Rica. I have been here a few years and without exaggeration, I find at LEAST one NEW location I would like to live in every two months or so. You will too."

 

My wife and I "retired" 3 1/2 years ago and lived for over a year in Mexico and I found that there was a "disconnect" between actual purchasing of property when compared to renting. Specifically that we lived in a small home two blocks from the beach (1100 sf) which we rented for $500 yet was on the market for about $200,000. I normally use a rule of thumb that 1% of a properties value is what one could charge for rent in the US.

 

Would it be fair to say that a somewhat similar situation exists in CR (I believe this is actually what you have said) and if this is the case how does one intelligently approach rental in CR for the 1st time when he knows the least about the rental market??????? As a negotiating tool I speak Spanish very well.

 

We are back in the US now as my wife thought she was homesick but I think that feeling is wearing off now.

 

Thanks for the great information and the thoughtful responses.

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